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23 July 2023 17:42

Driverless Three Teams Perspectives (3/3 DE Hamburg UAS)

For the 2022 magazine three teams gave us insights into the way they tackle the challenge of building an autonomous race car. With the magazine team working on full speed to finish this years magazine and FSG 2023 just around the corner we want to look back on this article ans post the full interviews the teams gave us. Last but not Least with HAWKS Racing e.V. from UAS Hamburg.

When did you start planning a driverless car?

It must have been in spring 2018, during the H14 Vicky season. I wasn't even at HAWKS at the time, but I had already been approached by Stefan Bergman (head of the electronics department at the time). The planning of the car started in the summer of 2018 after the events.

At the beginning you planned to build a combustion engine DV, but now you have decided to build an electric DV, what were the reasons for that?

Originally, the plan was to build a combustion engine DV. We wanted to take a halfway functioning car and then "only" build DV-systems and DV-software into it. Finally, we did the preliminary work in the first year, i.e. secured the financing, and already developed and manufactured a few individual components such as the DV-actuators. In summer 2019, we had then the problem that our chosen base car came back from the events with engine damage. As a result, we had a lot of internal discussions. One of the things that came out of the conversations with the team as well as with the alumni was: "Just put a small mini electric motor in there, it doesn't need to have 80 kW". At about the same time, the FSG also informed us that they wanted to abolish the combustion engine class in the future. This led to a new plan: "We focused on the fact that we wanted to build primarily a driverless car and therefore didn't need so much power. That means we built a low-voltage 48-volt powertrain with 5 to 10 kW of power. We were aware that we wouldn't be able to compete in electric racing with it, but it should definitely be enough for the first driverless season. In this way, we were able to gain experience for a real electric car.

HAWKS has been building combustion engines for 20 years now. The decision to switch to electric was certainly not without controversy. Can you tell me how this was received by the team and from the university side?

This was not the first time that HAWKS had discussed electricity. A few years ago, there was an idea that ended up as a concept study in the bachelor's thesis, with the result that the change at the university would not work. The combustion hardliners in the team referred to this work for a long time. They argued that the topic had already been studied but did not result in a recommendation to focus on that way. However, that was the minority luckily. In fact, there were an astonishing number of people in the team who were in favour of the project - including long-time internal combustion HAWKers, as well as former engine managers. In addition, the team leadership was basically united in favour of electric at the time of the decision. In fact, the university was very pleased about this, because most of the representatives, especially from the dean's office, would have preferred electric for a long time anyway.

After you built a working driverless car last year, you didn't manage to go to Hockenheim. What was the reason for that?

The short answer is: the car was not finished, or rather it failed because the car was not yet ready to drive at VSV. The drivetrain cost us a lot of time, even if it is only a small battery. Despite buying a lot of parts, we had problems that we didn't expect. So, the biggest challenge was to get the whole thing running in a sensible way so that all the safety systems would work.

How should the Driverless class at HAWKS be continued?

We are currently driving on two tracks. On the one hand, we now have our DV test vehicle, which has already been driven and is finished, more or less. We are now using it as a test platform to further develop the software, which suffered a lot last season... but we are not as far advanced as planned yet.

Parallel to this – and also due to the fact that we didn't compete with a DV last year - we have decided that we won't do EV & DV directly this year with the electric changeover, but rather tackle the changeover to a real HV electric car for the time being. However, during the redesign, we made sure that the steering and brake systems were designed in such a way that the future DV actuators have already been considered by the constructors.

Many other teams are now facing the same change, switching from a combustion car to a driverless and electric car in one. Would you like to give these teams something else to keep in mind?

Switching from Combustion to Driverless and at the same time to electric brings two very different challenges with, because switching from CV to EV & DV is much more complicated than switching to just one class. Therefore, I recommend the two-track approach by building a test car for DV first, if you have the resources. However, since Driverless is no longer a separate class, it's difficult to decide building a 48-volt low-voltage car like we did. Even though we as a team don't regret the intermediate step. It's just that you cannot win anything at Hockenheim with it and if you don't compete, it's always difficult to justify this approach in the team as well as to find the time for building two cars in parallel. 



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